One thing I can never get enough of is platformers. Throw me a new Mario/Donkey Kong game and I am there. I was even there for old Crash Bandicoot games with a new lick of paint the last few weeks. I simply love platformers, learning each level’s item pickups and a villain placement is what I crave. What I don’t love then are endless runners. A random flurry of jumps and dangers where the high score replaces technique is not a substitute for me. So I was ecstatic to hear that a new game for the iPhone harkens back to simple platforming A to B pleasures in Pauli’s Adventure Island. I knew I had to check it out. Unfortunately an extremely short campaign and a low difficulty level mar what was actually a very tight and responsive early entry point for a new platforming icon.
Story is as simple as it gets – and this is from a genre known for it’s simplicity – Pauli and girl friend/friend/sister (isn’t clear) Gemmi are on their way home when they discover their island is invaded by aliens. So they answer the call of duty and try to take them out. That’s it. Seriously.
But that’s not why we play platformers. We want last minute jumps across large chasms, perfectly placed enemy jumps that take us to higher ledges and boss battles that we need to learn techniques for. And this game has all three of those things; it just stops before it gets really exciting though. The four worlds each consist of 8 levels (that’s including the obligatory boss battle) and while each level has a time to beat and 3 four-leaf clovers to find, I never found myself repeating levels twice since the goals were met the first time. It has everything needed to make a compelling platformer (even the choice of which of the two identical bunnies to play as), but never quite used all its tricks to challenge the player. My 100% playthrough for example took maybe an hour and a half at best.
But to be fair and credit where it’s due, I kept coming back due to the tight controls. I never died unfairly and my jumps always landed how I wanted. The simplistic controls fits perfectly on the iPhone I was playing on. Two directional buttons lower left side screen and an A and B button for jump and roll bottom right. My actions never blocked the screen I was playing on and I can say it was a lot of fun to play.
It’s such a shame that it felt like a demo or an entry point to a bigger game. A hard mode or even a mirror mode would have done a lot to add some time to the game, or asking the player to complete the game as both characters to unlock a new level would have added some much needed length. Unfortunately, as it stands it will barely last a day’s worth of commuting to work.
The game’s look is adequate, but is not unlike a free online game that one would play when avoiding work. However, it’s important to note that if it works, and it does, it’s not just about the visuals. Sure the limited animations look a bit pedestrian, but I appreciated that each level added a new element to the world and it all fit within the design of the overall title.
Pauli’s Adventure Island is the beginning of a greater game. If the creators made a second title I would get it in a heartbeat, but there needs to be more bravery in creating some more difficult courses. Adding some additional worlds, some extra gameplay mechanics and replayability functions would go a long way to making it an easily recommended game. As it stands it isn’t bad, but is sadly forgettable. If they can trust their engine to work as well as it does and push the skills of the player there could be the beginning of a new platforming mascot for the digital age.
Score – 40%